Bernal Heights Crime Report for February 2013: Robberies Back Down, Car Break-Ins Back Up, and Keep Your iGadgets Hidden


Neighbor Sarah attended the SFPD Ingleside Community meeting last week, and she filed these terrific summary notes on Bernal Heights crime trends. Read on:


At the beginning of January, there were not very many robberies – eight in the first two weeks. Then, as we all know, there was a big spike – 38 in the next two weeks. This pattern was repeated citywide. Most spikes in crime tend NOT to be the result of many people doing one crime apiece but rather a few people committing many crimes. This January saw 18 more robberies than last January.

They brought in the Violence Reduction Team from downtown and saturated the areas that had seen lots of robberies. There were several arrests, and robberies are down to their previous level. There were 16 arrests this January vs. eight in January 2012.

Burglaries are up a little, possibly because during the recent warm spell, people left more windows open. One common mistake is to leave your back window or side/service yard window open – burglars know that people do this and will look for ways to get into those areas.

Auto thefts are also up a little, but they made two “good arrests” lately – the suspects are “frequent flyers” with many past auto thefts under their belts. The station does a lot of crime-mapping and overlaying it with maps showing the addresses of people who are recently out of jail for those crimes.

Thefts from locked vehicles continue to be concentrated and on the rise in Precita Park and Crocker-Amazon Park between 10pm and 6am. With the new cadets arriving at the station, experienced officers are being freed up to focus on these problem areas. They are also working on outreach to remind people not to leave things in their cars.

Remove charging cords, GPS suction cups, or anything else that may make a thief think you have something valuable in the car. Thieves use sparkplug chips, which allow them to break in noiselessly and quickly. Some people have nothing in their cars, but the cars still get broken into – this is because the thieves are finding enough stuff in cars in the area that they’re going fishing for more.

If you see people looking into cars, call the non-emergency number (553-0123). If they continue to look into cars or start doing other suspicious things, or if you see a clear crime in progress, call 911. The captain’s mantra is “people aren’t suspicious; their behavior is” (meaning: call the police if you see something weird going on, and let them check it out).

52 people have been arrested citywide for firearm violations in the first 49 days of the year – 11 were in Ingleside. When robberies involve guns, they bring in the plainclothes units very quickly.

Robberies have been more violent in this recent crime wave. Please do not have your iPhone out – they convert to $300 very quickly. I asked if there was a gang connection to these robberies, and the captain said he did not believe so. The Ingleside neighborhoods tend to be targeted by opportunists who like the easy freeway access. Gangs tend to raise money for themselves through drug-dealing and not through robberies.

If you are a victim of a robbery, try to be a good witness without putting yourself in danger. Muggers often wear multiple pairs of pants or shirts so that they can shed layers between robberies. Try to get a look at anything that won’t change – shoes, scars, tattoos, glasses, markings.

Always be sure to report crimes, even car break-ins! It sounds obvious, but many people don’t do it. And if the police don’t have an accurate view of where the crimes are occurring, they cannot correctly assign resources.

Someone asked about reporting crimes or suspicious behavior anonymously. You can do so, but it means the police will have to establish their own probable cause to search someone – ie, they can’t use the anonymous call as the probable cause. So if you feel comfortable giving your name, do, but you don’t have to.

The Balboa Park BART thefts (where people in cars would ask passersby for directions and then steal their phones) have dropped off. They were also happening in the East Bay (same suspect descriptions), and the captain thinks they may have been arrested elsewhere. If that’s correct, they would then also be charged with the SF crimes.

A community member asked about young people loitering on the steps next to the Italian American Social Club in the Excelsior, which has been an ongoing problem. The club has a 25MPC notice (a no-trespassing letter authorizing police to remove people), but the building next door does not, so people have been gathering there and causing problems.


This is a four-week, five days/week, six hours/day program for students aged 14 to 20 who have an interest in becoming police officers or just learning more about the police. They must reside or go to school in SF, have a 2.0+ GPA, and pass an SFPD background check. The program runs from June 17 to July 12. There is an ongoing volunteering/community service component to the program as well.

They get a taste of what the police academy is like – classroom time, exercise, uniforms, background on law and police powers. The program is targeting the southeast area of SF.

Applications are due by 5pm on April 5. Trivia: both Captain Dave Lazar and former Chief Heather Fong started out as teens in this program. More info and applications can be found here. And here’s an SFGate article on the program.


PHOTO: Telstar Logistics